A readable though uninspiring first novel about a Presbyterian minister's crisis of faith. Swain Hammond, the reserved intellectual minister of the Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., suits his highly rational congregration just fine. But trouble begins when Swain hears the voice of God--not once, but several times. When he tries to share his good news, his wife worries about his mental health, friends avoid him, and some church members ask for his resignation. Instead of backing down, Swain tries his hand at faith healing. He attempts to restore sight to Jakey, a ten-year-old boy blinded in an accident that took place at the church. Meanwhile, Jakey's father, Joe, feels that Swain is partially responsible for Jakey's accident, and also senses Swain's lust for Joe's wife Patrice--an old friend who had gone to school with Swain. Burdened by guilt for Jakey and yearning for Patrice, Swain is overwhelmed when his own wife, Julie, informs him that she is pregnant for the first time, at the age of 37, and intends to have the baby. The product of cold, withholding parents, Swain secretly dislikes children and has never seen himself as a parent. After more spiritual encounters, he comes to terms with his new role as a father, the reality of Jakey's blindness, and the changed relationship with his congregation. An intriguing theme and engaging plot--but not enough to make this concoction jell. Both major and minor characters are flatly drawn and never spring to life; and despite some sprightly dialogue and occasional flashes of humor, the overall mix is bland, the temperature tepid.